Monday, December 29, 2014

the night will shine like the day ~ Psalm 139:12

Babies are bits of stardust, blown from the hand of God. – Barretto

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,

and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before,

and you lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place,

when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body;

all the days ordained for me were written in your book

before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts,God!

How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them,

they would outnumber the grains of sand—

when I awake, I am still with you.

If only you, God, would slay the wicked!

Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!

They speak of you with evil intent;

your adversaries misuse your name.

Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,

and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?

have nothing but hatred for them;

I count them my enemies.

Search me, God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 Births & Blessings

Photograph by Robin Baker
I haven't blogged in awhile but I have kept true to my old fashioned journal. Also I confess my Facebook addiction eats up way too much of my time. I've missed blogging. In these final days of 2014 I would like to share a few important memories that I also would like to document and hey maybe someone out there will read this and feel some connection to the story or to me or to their present situation. Isn't that why we write and read, to feel connected? I love to read. I love to feel like the writer is writing about me or I like to read things that stretch me and make me learn or help me to examine my beliefs. Maybe a belief out there that I never really looked at, that is no longer necessary, maybe holding me back or causing me and those I love pain. Maybe there is a belief out there that wants to bring me more joy, love, peace. My wish is that you have more of all that in 2015!

...When did I write that last paragraph? What interrupted me? I'm laughing out loud. I've learned to laugh at myself more, at my attention deficit disorder and my 'too many to count' imperfections. Hold on, off I go to gather my journals. I can't find my leather one. It's precious and full of birth stories and I am sure it will surface. But I found other pieces of stories to share with you. As I look forward to 2015 I want to give thanks to God for all the ways He blessed me in 2014. When I sit under the stars some nights and talk to God here is the abbreviated thank you list, "Thanks for my grandchildren, my children, my parents, my siblings, my nephews and nieces, extended family and friends near and far, a roof over my head, my dogs, cat, chickens, for my day job and for calling me to birth work, to Doula work!"

This year I want to thank every woman who invited me to accompany her on her birthing journey. Thank you to her partner who welcomed me with open arms and who allowed me to witness some tearfully tender, intimate, moments between the two of you. In our prenatal time I heard about your love story, sometimes your first kiss, sometimes your proposal, but always in the partners words, in that voice she loves. I love those prenatal hours when we can talk about everything under the sun. Where we came from. Where we're going. Our most painful and passionate moments. I know we won't be able to speak like this in labor. Labor is when we breathe. We speak softly and use words sparingly. Our hearts are already entwined. We share looks and hands signals so as not to disturb the birth process. Your beloved.

Thank you to each baby who I was honored to meet on that special birth day! Thank you Scout, Fletcher, Ember, Anna, Faith, Elijah, Donovan, Olivia, Brielle, Bodie, Liam & Elena (vaginal born twins), Mason, Cameron and Alexis. I'll love you forever!

I was surprised at so many turns during each of your journeys earth side! You taught me so much! Some of you came so fast that I have needed to re-examine my prenatal time spent preparing parents for the normally long stages of labor when they can (usually) linger on their favorite walking trail, and carry on and "live life until you get the urge to push". One of you came when I stepped out of the hospital room into the hallway for a moment. I was talking to your grandma on the phone, reassuring her that all was well. It was meant to be that you would come with just your mama and daddy together with your nurse. After all your sister had been born to a room full of family and you wanted to be more private. It was special because daddy had just returned from his deployment. He'd missed so much but he didn't miss your quick-as-a-wink birth!

You all brought me to my knees. I heard your mama's heart, her deep desire to birth you vaginally, or naturally, or standing on her head!  Hahaha! got cha there! Oh how I wanted what she wanted!! I knew your story would go down in history, I like to call it "herstory" because it is your mama's story. Your birth story will be told and retold for generations and we all know that your mama is a brave, strong, birthing warrior, fearless, and so confident! But as ancient woman-to-woman care made good sense to her, she paid me well to help ensure this day would be all she hoped. Not all went as planned. Three of you were born by Cesarean birth; one emergency Cesarean, one repeat Cesarean and one primary Cesarean. I firmly believe that there is a time and a season for everything under heaven. And I believe there is a reason that you, my three Cesarean babies, were born this way. Not what your mama expected or wanted but in that decision she was born a mommy, answering your call for help as she always will. We know you did your very best to come safely into our arms and I know your mom and daddy did their best to help you come in the safest way for you and I know I did my best so that is that, you came in the perfect way for you!

Each of your mama's was, in my mind, holding on to the hand of God, calling to her God and exhibiting supernatural powers when doing the work of birthing you! I saw wonders, miracles, the unthinkable happen before my eyes. Then you were here, in her arms.

Statistics don't mean much when I consider your individual labors, births, families, and your very unique and special personalities. But just for the books 81% of you were vaginal births, 19% were Cesarean births. Of those born vaginally 25% of you were naturally born and 56% of your mama's had some form of medical intervention, like medication to start or speed up labor or medication for pain, or artificial rupture of membranes, or assisted birth with suction. Two of you were born at Birth Centers, Fourteen of you were born in hospitals, Two of you were Vaginal Births After Cesarean (one VBAC, one VBA2C). Four of you were caught by a midwife. One of my clients this year was a repeat client who I've had the pleasure of being invited to all three of her children's births! You can't imagine how special this birth was! Baby was born into water, caught by her Mama. I'm looking forward to two repeat clients (that I know of) in 2015!

One of your birth notes read:
 Text @ 10:30PM, waters leaking.  2AM phone chat. Mom sounds great!  It sounds like Dad is up and keeping her company.  Surges 6 mins. apart, still short. Walking, hands & knees, watching TV, showered. Didn't like ball, doesn't want touching. Will try heating pad. Very exciting happy day! Baby born @ 6:16AM
Even after I arrived at your home, sometime between 3AM and 4AM, your mom was acting typical of early labor. But it was her desire to go to hospital. I have learned to always do what a birthing woman wants, her instincts are usually right on! We got there just in time!

Thanks for sharing this walk down memory lane with me. Thank you for remembering to send prayers my way throughout the coming year. I will do the same for you. Thank you to my teachers, besides the Mama's and Babies. Thanks to teachers like my Doula Sisters (you know who you are), my Midwife friends like Joni Nichols, Nicole Morales, Jewel Hernandez, Thanks for the Rebozo training Gena Kirby, I cannot say how many times I reference your work Anna Verwaal, and Karen Strange, and Gail Tully of Spinning Babies, and Pam England and Virginia Bobro of Birthing From Within. Mostly thank you to my mom who showed me when she carried each of my seven siblings, in her belly and in her arms, how to be a soft, loving, strong and wise woman and mother, how pregnancy is a privilege, birth is a miracle, and life is a gift.

Happy New Year All! Here are some moments from 2014

My mom and me

My daughter and grandson

My son and grandson

Friday, October 03, 2014

Birth Doula ~ Natural Healer

I am a Birth Doula.  I am in the process in being interviewed by, Nora, a student here on the university campus where I work as an administrative staff person during the day[1].  In Nora's Anthropology class the final paper will be about a natural healing practice in our culture. Doulas were on the suggested list. I had my first part of the interview yesterday.  I can talk for hours about birth, ask anyone who knows me. But I stumbled on my words when Nora asked me, "How does the Doula do this healing thing, where and when does the healing happen?"  I don't remember what I said but now, after thinking about it a bit,  what I’d like to say to her and to you today is that the healing a doula does is more preventative than curative.  I don’t think a pregnant woman seeks out a doula thinking that she is looking for a healer. She is not sick. A pregnant woman does not need healing...or not the type of healing that western medicine can offer. When someone has a backache they look for a chiropractor knowing she can heal them or lessen their pain and also prevent more serious injury and prevent them from needing surgery. They know that the chiropractor is straightening their spine so blood carrying healing oxygen can flow to the muscles, tendons, bones.  Likewise the doula uses various techniques to help reduce a laboring woman's pain and clear away the mother’s fears so that the hormones that cause labor contractions can flow and the labor may be shorter and the baby may be safely born. The doula may help the woman avoid technical interventions in a process that most times is better served by non-intervention, less technology and more heart.

The doula may answer the calling to be a “helper” more than a “healer” but end up doing both very well.  The support a doula provides may help a woman avoid postpartum depression or avoid experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The doula's help may prevent a woman from needing a surgical birth aka Cesarean Section. The maternal mortality rate for a cesarean is higher than with a vaginal birth. A doula may also direct a woman to evidence based information that helps the mom-to-be understand her need for a Cesarean(a) birth for her baby therefore preventing a true emergency, while at the same time helping the family make an informed decision and empowering this woman to give true informed consent. A doula may prevent the dad or partner from experiencing birth trauma at his baby's birth. As a birth doula I have heard birth stories that break my heart, told by women about their prior births . After the initial relief of having a healthy baby and the gush of loving emotions that naturally flow after giving birth, women can experience a flood of confusing emotions. Sometimes it seems the aftermath is a chasm of resentment, bitterness, anger and confusion between the mom and her partner or between the mom and her own body or between the mom and her baby or between the mom and her care provider. These wounds can be healed by the careful words, tender touch, and the attentive care of a birth doula. Another healing effect the doula makes is that her attention during initial postpartum may make it easier for the mom and baby to have a successful nursing relationship, preventing many childhood illnesses and providing life long immunities for the baby and lowering the moms chance of breast cancer. If 90% of U.S. mothers exclusively breastfed for six months as recommended by medical providers, the nation could save $13 billion and prevent the loss of 911 lives, annually.

How does the doula accomplish this without being a licensed counselor, medical care provider, clergy or religious leader? How does the listening ear of a friend help bolster a bone weary mother? How does the listening, compassionate, husband endear himself to his wife? How does a basket of warm dinner create community in a neighborhood? How does a cold glass of water to the repair man in your basement spread good will? In these same ways the doula serves her clients.

Let's look closer at how the doula accomplishes what others seemingly cannot. Nurses and doctors and even nervous well meaning family members can get caught up in their own agenda, their own thoughts, and their own emotions. They may not remember to or even know how to attend to the laboring woman’s needs.  The doula is trained and focused and not distracted. Her number one and main and central focus is the birthing woman.  They know each other and they have practiced various ways to negotiate the twists and turns of labor. They have talked about the wide variety of labor patterns and how there is no wrong way to give birth. This removes the pressure of “performing” and the pressure of a ticking clock. The world as we know it drifts away as a woman enters what doulas call “Labor Land”.  This is one of the only times when a woman is fully awake and her brain is in the Delta frequency. Delta is the realm of our unconscious mind and the gateway to the universal mind (God) and the collective unconscious where information received is otherwise unavailable at the conscious level[2].  This mother can now follow her deepest instincts and intuitions knowing, trusting that, her doula and her care provider will recognize anything out of the ordinary.  This type of doula attention usually helps a women to labor untethered to societies norms and therefore enjoy her experience more and appreciate her amazing body and her amazing power.  The doula will fix a snack for the mom and her partner while they labor cheek to cheek; the doula will run a bath for mom. The doula will take a walk with mom, the doula will hold mom while she cries. Even when some well-meaning people may try to quiet moms cries, the doula encourages her to feel ALL her feeling, release all her fears, joys, regrets, hopes….the doula will patiently and quietly listen. The doula will not interject with a quick fix, her own life drama, or her own birth story.  The doula uses touch or massage or touch-less massage (a fan) to comfort the laboring woman. The doula knows that the laboring woman's senses are hypersensitive and she knows that to adjust the sounds and lighting in the birthing room of a laboring woman can make a huge difference. Even the sense of smell is heightened in laboring women. So the doula may carry the essential oils that she knows could help her client, like oils that are calming or oils that help ease nausea.The doula is there to honor this woman on her day, to hold the space sacred. The doula helps mom and dad to do one thing at a time, take one contraction at a time. Filling each moment with love and maybe some music or story telling of either memories or fantasies, or old movies or T.V. favorites or whatever is familiar and comforting to the birthing woman.

When I shared with Nora “why I became a doula” I shared the basic beginning of my calling, the bare bones – my own first experience giving birth. That experience was not what I imagined birth should be.  When afterwards I hunted and gathered more information, more knowledge, and therefore more confidence, I was able to realize as I birthed my second baby, how amazing my body was, how wonderful birth really was!  I also realized how much I wanted to help other women to experience this truth; that is they can birth in ecstasy!

That early seed of my doula beginnings has taken root and become a strong foundation, like the trunk of my doula tree. The tree branches spread in many directions today.   I am, if it's possible, even more excited than ever to be a doula as I realize more and more the importance of birth as God designed it. I am also excited about being a doula because I've become addicted to learning.  Who me?  The girl who never liked school?  Yes. I love to learn from every unborn baby, every unborn mommy. I learn from observing them born into the world – a new baby,a new mommy are born. That transition, crossing of a threshold, the age old rite of passage, is magical, mysterious and holy.  In the following years I hope I can somehow find a way to pass on to the next generation some of what I have learned from these hundreds of generous moms and babies.  I am grateful to my sister-in-law, Nora Bastien, for interviewing me and letting me share about the healing work of a doula.

Today one branch of my learning has me excited about the subject of epigenetics[3]. It is now a proven fact that the type of experience a woman and her baby have at birth will affect not only their future, but many generations of this family.  A new science called Epigenetics, the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of genes, has brought this to light. Yes our experiences change our genetics, our DNA. Whether a woman and her baby have a traumatic birth experience or whether they have an positive birth will affect the future of the human race.
Who knew I’d read whole studies on such things. Who knew when I started on this path that I would call myself a healer.

Not me.

Now we know.

I have been the Doula for the Baker family five times.
Thank you Robin & Mike Baker ♥

Does it matter who provides continuous support in labor?[4]

The most recent systematic review looked closely at how effects of labor support varied by type of person providing labor support, and offers new knowledge (Hodnett and colleagues 2011).

Effects were strongest when the person was neither a member of the hospital staff nor a person in the woman's social network, and was present solely to provide one-to-one supportive care. Compared with women who had no continuous support, women with companions (such as a doula) who were neither on the hospital staff nor in the woman's social network were:

·   28% less likely to have a cesarean section

·   31% less likely to use synthetic oxytocin to speed up labor

·   9% less likely to use any pain medication

·   34% less like to rate their childbirth experience negatively.

(a) Safe Prevention of Primary Cesarean

[1] A lot of doulas hold second jobs to ensure a steady income, health and retirement benefits. We doula’s often joke and call any job that is not birth related our “fake job”. My day job enables me to do what I am passionate about, birth work, at night and on weekends.  Yes, babies come at all hours and sometimes I need to take a day away from my day job to attend a birth. Therefore I do not take as many doula clients as I would like but I am able to fully serve both of my clients and sometimes work with a family pro bono.



[4]  Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr G J, Sakala C, Weston J. Continuous support for women during childbirth [PDF]. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011, Issue 2.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ember's Birth

It was just another birth paradise! Ember was born gently into her mama's hands in a warm tub of water as the witnesses, her midwife, her daddy, her grandmother , her photographer and me the doula quietly, silently, breathed in the holy aire, the sacredness of birth! It seemed God was there too. Time stood still. I was changed. Everyone was. Birth changes the world. Can you feel it? All the babies coming today, even right now, are changing you...changing us...changing me.

It was my honor to attend the birth of Ember. I attended the births of Ember's big sister and brother too. These three little ones, this family, hold a special place in my heart. Watch the video below and you'll fall in love with them too. Each and every birth I attend is so gosh darn special to me! I am so very grateful to Megan for inviting me to be her doula and grateful and humbled to be called to birthings, called to birth work.

Ember's Birth Day from Angelina Lopez on Vimeo.

Megan has had her first baby at a hospital but chose to have her last two babies at Best Start Birth Center. Michelle Kazmier was her wonderful midwife.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Matthew Vincent Phillips - Birth Story

Last week at this time I was in Red Bank, New Jersey at my grandson's 2nd birthday. How time flys! It seems like yesterday that Matthew was born. Below is his birth story in this grandma's words. I am sharing with my daughters permission.

March 9, 2012 - Friday evening Andrea and I went on a walk. It was a cold night. We walked to the Wawa, got a very delicious hot chocolate and went down to the beach.  The moon was coming up over the Jersey Shore. The night was dark, our spirits were high.  This was the day that docs had planned to take Matthew via Cesarean.  Andrea told them, "No thank you!". She was glad to be waiting for labor to start spontaneously and for Matthew to pick his birthday.  Over the last few days Andrea seemed to be having more and more moments of heavy endorphin highs, she was euphoric and soft.  There were also moments of painful heavy baby, heavy body, exhaustion, sleepiness, fear, and then she’d come full circle back to bravery. Andrea is so ready to meet her baby. We were almost back to the house when Andrea made a surprised sound. Then she told me she felt something grind against her pubic bone, or more like a clunk feeling. She hoped that something wasn’t wrong. I knew that it was very right. All that Rebozo jiggling I’d been doing to get baby off Mom’s pubic bone may have helped.  Matthew was getting curious to meet his mommy and daddy. He was ready to meet the world!

Tonight Michael and Andrea were invited to a friend’s 30th birthday bash.  Andrea didn’t feel up to it.  Michael’s friends wanted him to take the Limo to dinner with them.  Michael opted to drive himself.  Turns out that was a good decision.

Michael came home early at 10:30PM Andrea’s water leaked at 11:40PM

March 10, 2012 - At midnight Andrea woke me up to tell me about her leaking water and contractions.   I ask her how close the contractions are.   She says, “twenty minutes”.  I say, “Go back to bed”, trying to act casual, nonchalant and knowing that any sleep, even 10 minutes, could give Andrea the energy reserves she would need to get through her fast approaching labor…I didn’t know how fast!

Michael came to get me out of bed just as I was drifting off.  Andrea’s contractions have moved from 20 to 15 to 10 to 5 minutes apart in 45 minutes.  She is vomiting.  She gets in the warm tub.  It’s not long before she wants to go to the hospital.  She wants to go NOW!!!  I think she says she is going to call a Taxi because Michael is taking too long packing their bags.  I was trying to dry Andrea off and dress her and pack my stuff too.  At first I thought we could delay her and stay home longer like in some labors.  NOT this one!  Andrea was acting like this labor was moving precipitously fast and it was just very furiously powerful.  We (Michael and I) were caught off guard.  Yes, me, the doula, was caught off guard!  Birth is full of surprises.  Each baby, each labor, each mama has a different experience, a different story.  No two are alike.

I believe a woman when she says something in labor.  Rule #1 “LISTEN TO MOM”.  So we tried to comply and get Andrea to the hospital as quick as possible.  We got to hospital at 3AM.  Although Andrea was one centimeter dilated, I knew she was having a big baby and her body was doing a tremendous job getting him out.  She was naturally making some powerful contractions!!!  One of my worries had been that Andrea’s labor would be really long.  I see that often with big babies.  I’d been praying for hers to be quick.  Well, Matthew was not wasting anytime, he was on his way!  In two hours Andrea was four centimeters, then two hours later 7 centimeters. By 9AM Andrea was EIGHT centimeters dilated!!! She was fully effaced and Matthew was -1 station.

Andrea had wanted an epidural as soon as we arrived at the hospital.  When waiting for the anesthesiologist she was panicky and wanted a cesarean now!  I reassured her that the epidural would make her comfortable.  Michael also worked to calm her and he encouraged her to try and avoid surgical birth.  Finally her Epidural was in place.  But it wasn’t providing complete coverage. Again Andrea wavered and considered a cesarean.  The anesthesiologist came back and got her comfortable.  In most cases an epidural slows labor.  Not this time.  Andrea’s body was a birthing machine!  Meanwhile Michael was able to get some sleep.  Andrea was un-nerved by the shaking that was happening to her.  The hormones of birth often cause women to get the shakes, it feels like uncontrollable shivering or rattling.  It’s discerning.  Even with an epidural, it’s a very powerful time and a lot of work.  It helped when I read the Hypnobirthing Affirmations. Then Michael read the Rainbow Relaxation Script.  That really got Andrea relaxed and glowing!!  She said she was high.  The sun came up on March 10, 2012.  Andrea had brushed her teeth with Michael’s help. We brushed her hair and, what else, she put on her make-up!  All the while she was having wonderful, beautiful, powerful, contractions.

I was sure she was progressing.  Maybe baby would be zero station by noon or mama would be 9 centimeters. As long as these docs saw progress they were happy.  They were very conservative surgeons (sometimes we forget that an OBGYN is a trained surgeon) and they were section happy.  Numerous docs had told Andrea she should schedule a C-section.  They described shoulder dystocia in vivid, graphic detail.  The doc’s had scared Michael and Andrea for months now.  One doc, the one we saw that Monday at the biophysical, said to Andrea, “You have a generous pelvis”.  But then he said what must have been in her file, “cesarean recommended”.  The doc that admitted Andrea to the hospital tonight said, “Baby’s head isn’t too big, he may be 7 lbs.” That was encouraging but in the end the docs stick to protocol and stick together.

11AM Saturday, March 10, 2012

Even though Andrea’s labor had moved fast, in these last two hours, Andrea had not made the progress that met hospital standard protocol. That was all it took for the doc to make a strong recommendation for cesarean section.  Andrea and Michael asked everyone including me to leave the room so they could talk.

I LOVE THAT! I love that Andrea took her power into her hands. I so respected whatever this strong Mama decided.

Matthew Vincent Phillips was born via Cesarean Section at 1:56PM 3/10/12. He weighed 10 pounds, 11.7 ounces. He was 23 ½ inches long.   Andrea recovered quickly. Matthew nursed smartly.  They all fell in love like never before, like they could’ve never imagined.  Madly in love.  Blissfully in love.

One of my favorite memories from Matthew’s birth day is when I was resting on the convertible
Hospital bed while Michael was comforting Andrea.  As she labored he would kiss her or I should say, “They would share a kiss”.  That kiss was so sweet and so powerful!  The love oozed and I was actually embarrassed to be there.

After note: I didn’t feel like a doula at my daughters birthing time.  It might be compared to doulas who give birth, they are not in their doula brain, they are in their strong mama brain or maybe staying outside their brain altogether.   I was 100% the mother of the new mommy; in my mothering skin.  Yes, the whole woman, with her life experience as a birth doula, as a woman who has given birth, was fully present. But I was a mom. First.  Always.

This is just bits and pieces of what actually happened. Nancy Phillips and Joe Phillips were there and have their story.  Matthew has his memories.  We all have our version of the time around Matthew’s birth day, the day Michael became a daddy, the day my baby girl became a mommy. This is one version – my version. Happy Birthday Matthew! Love, Gamma Rosie

A newborn babe brings
light to the cottage,
Warmth to the hearth
And joy to the soul,
For wealth is family,
And family is wealth.